“I was so ignorant. I could never imagine that the biggest issue we would be fighting would be human trafficking.”
When I first started researching how to support children without shoes, and looking for a charity partner, I had no real understanding about the consequences of poverty. I was so ignorant. I could never imagine that the biggest issue we would be fighting would be human trafficking. India has the highest number of slaves in the world, at just under 18.4 million, or 1.4% of the population.
The Statistics of Human Trafficking:
Human trafficking is a multibillion-dollar criminal industry, where victims are recruited by deception or coercion. Globally, around 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders every year. Of these, 80% are women, half are children and 46% are trafficked for sexual exploitation. Official statistics estimate that 70-100,000 women and children are sexually exploited in India, while other organisations estimate this number to be over 3 million. UNICEF estimates that 200,000 people are trafficked in India every year. In the West Bengal region of India, trafficking of girls is a serious issue, as it is a gateway to three other countries: Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
So what is the typical story of a trafficked girl?
Commonly, a girl affected by sex trafficking in the human trafficking trade, starts out being born into a poor rural area to a family of small-holder rice farmers. Although she would later attend primary school, like 96% of Indian girls aged 5-11, she is likely to drop out before reaching secondary school due to responsibilities in the family home and farm. If, for example, a flood destroys the family’s crops, a lurking trafficker may strike and claim to offer an employment opportunity for her in a distant town. If her family accepts, she would then be taken to an area such as a local bus stop, sold, and transported to the brothel in a process that takes several days, multiple bribes to officials and involves frequent sexual abuse to the girls. The highest demand is for submissive girls aged 10-12 years old, who will tolerate a high degree of abuse and will often be advertised as virgins. After being “broken in”, she would then move into the main brothel, working long hours for many years until she is ejected for being too old and ill, which is often the case with young child sex labourers. Like most girls, she would fear discrimination and inability to find alternative employment. In the end, she is likely to return home as a trafficker herself. It is very difficult for trafficked girls to escape, due to the threat of violence and lack of means or alternatives.
There is Still Hope
Despite this incredibly dire situation, there is still hope; there is still something you can do to help, such as making a donation to the HOPE Foundation. One of the Hope Foundation’s strategies to curb human trafficking is their highly effective and persistent Night Watch Programme. The Night Watch Programme involves night rounds for rescue and rehabilitation, with 25 rescues (15 children and 10 adults) during the 2014-15 reporting period. In addition, this programme organises awareness camps on related issues – including children’s rights issues and stakeholder meetings with those at the local level. Hope provides emergency treatment, rehabilitation and follow-up services to the rescued children.
Another way that any one of us could help put an end to these very serious issues is by purchasing a pair of Moeloco flip-flops, as every pair sold donates one pair of shoes to a vulnerable child in India. A pair of shoes changes these children’s lives. It enables them to go to school, avoid infection and unlock far better opportunities than forced labour.
Even when problems seem insurmountable, we can all make a difference, regardless of how small it is.
The HOPE Foundation, Annual Overview, 2014-15
The Global Slavery Index, 2016, Retrieved from: https://s3-ap-southeast-2.amazonaws.com/globalslaveryindex.org-assets/downloads/Global+Slavery+Index+2016.pdf
Trafficking in Human Beings, Interpol, Retrieved from: http://www.interpol.int/Crime-areas/Trafficking-in-human-beings/Trafficking-in-human-beings
Traffic Report India, August 2011, MapleCroft, Retrieved from: https://maplecroft.com/docs/hr_2011_q3_in_trafficking_report/